I grasp the plastic of the fretboard of my ukulele and begin to strum a familiar and comforting melody. I let my mind relax and I get lost in the notes, patterns and rhythm. With my eyes trained to my fingers plucking on the strings, I play the chords from memory. C, A minor, G, F, over and over. The simple song is easy but soothing after a long day at school. I begin to let my mind wander.
My obsession with the instrument began with a YouTube video and a Christmas gift. After ten minutes of frustration with my failed attempts at a C chord, I set down the ukulele in the corner of my bedroom, and forgot about it. Six months later, I decided to try again. I spent hours that day learning to play a few basic chords and eventually learning the song Riptide, by Vance Joy.
The rest of that week, all I did was play Riptide on an endless loop until I had mastered the song. By the end of the week, I knew I had to find something else to play, so I decided to try Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles. The first time I played through it was a disaster. After spending a few hours failing to learn the song, I again got frustrated and put my ukulele back down in the corner of my room. A few weeks later I realized that I needed to try something in my skill range, not an advanced song. I settled on Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. By the end of the next day, I had that song down as well.
Throughout the summer I jumped from song to song, learning to play anything I could get my hands on. I learned songs of varying styles and difficulty. When school started again, I set my ukulele down for the third time, in favor of my quizzes and essays. But soon enough, as the beginning of the year craziness began to die down, I picked up my ukulele again, and haven’t put it down since.
Which leads me to now, playing the first song I learned on the ukulele. The rhythm of the song comes so naturally, that I don’t have to think about it. I just let my fingers guide me through the harmonies, blindly moving over the strings on the fretboard. I’ve set aside time everyday for over a year to practice and learn a new song, and my knowledge of the instrument has grown exponentially.
Playing the ukulele has become a safe haven in my life, something I can always count on. I can remember nights where I would be sitting at my desk on the verge of tears over an especially hard algebra equation. As soon as I started to feel my shoulders tense, I would take a break. I found myself practicing a new song I had learned the day before, slowly working out the complicated riffs and picking. I spent close to half an hour plucking through the song until I felt calm enough to go back to my homework, and easily breezed through the rest of it. The last time I had used the ukulele as an escape was when my best friend and I had a fight. That day I played my ukulele for so long that I had a blister on thumb from strumming and my hand was cramping. Throughout my playing though, I thought about the argument between my friend and I, and I was able to understand the issue better, and after a week, the song and the argument had smoothed themselves out.
The ukulele is a constant in my life, and something I’m proud to say I’ve done by myself. I don’t know what the next year will bring, but I know I can count on the fact that I’ll still be strumming away on my ukulele.